a response to Andy Gills bloghttp://andygill.org/heretics-banned-evangelicalism/
Heresy is any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion.
The term is usually used to refer to violations of religious or traditional laws or legal codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment.
So I see a few things going on here – all pointing towards the unspoken logic that,
a. hey people have decried top notch theologians and Christian giants for heresy before.
b, People are knocking Rob Bell for heresy; therefore
c. Could it be that Rob Bell is simply in the mix of a long and noble line of actual orthodox theologians who were simply misunderstood?
Well, each case deserves to be taken separately.
OK. lets look at the alleged heretic candidates in order;
- CS Lewis -
- Inclusivism – I would agree that it looks like Lewis is in the inclusivist camp – but if that is a heresy, then its one that at least he can claim there are some ambiguities about this issue. Scripture does say in many different ways that salvation is through faith in Jesus alone. However, it also certainly shows some old testament dudes are in heaven, and we make allowances for children, and what about people who have never heard of Jesus, or the mentally incompetent? There is even some stuff in Romans (2:12-16) to further complicate matters. So, if Lewis is wrong, then at least he'll have a leg to stand on by saying “well God, you know you could have laid that one out better for us...”. Point is, while that may not be the MOST orthodox view, its not out in left field. And besides, this is mainly about people who haven't heard about Jesus, not people who have heard and rejected him.
- Substitutionary atonment theory – well, I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds kind of like what Aslan did for Edmund by dying for him in his place, in taking the consequences of sin on himself. Anyways, I can't imagine any evangelicals engaging in anything more than an armchair philosophical battle over this one in the last 100 years. I mean, I suppose there is Scriptural support for both of them and the Truth might include elements of both theories and more besides. But again, not something that is a hill to die on for the non-scholars out there.
- Martin Luther – Biblical Inerrancy...so he thought they got the number of people wrong... this – ok... but wasn't this the guy who was all about 'sola scriptura'? I'm just saying that although he may not pass the new fundamentalist hardcore Biblical Inerrancy test, he took Scripture waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more serious than most Christians...
- St. Augustine – really? That's the best you got for him? I wasn't aware that this was ever an dividing line between evangelicals. I don't believe in literal 6 day creation, some of my friends do (to my utter amazement) – but its not even close to an issue of heresy for any of us...(or anyone else I've ever met).
- Barclay – Universalism.
- Here we come to something which could fulfill the elements of a legitimate heresy. Here is the problem with this one – if its true, then great! With all my heart, I hope it is. For real. Theproblem is that there are a lot of passages (some spoken by Jesus Himself) that have to be dealt with to responsibly arrive at this conclusion, and I haven't seen that.
- On the flip side, if its not true (which apparenly the vast majority opinion of orthodox believers over the past 2000 years would say its not) then it would be really really really really irresponsible (understatement of the year award nominee) to insinuate otherwise.
- I haven't read Barclay's reasoning for being a universalist, but if its along the lines of Bells, then it sucks. I read “love wins” and he has really weak theological grounding for his conclusions – he rightly points out that the standard understanding of “Hell” and the different words translated as “Hell” are poorly understood. But to then to avoid the most difficult Biblical passages dealing with this issue and leap to the conclusion that “its all gonna work out in the end just fine” (you can argue that technically his conclusions may be more nuanced than this, but realistically this is what people are going to walk away with)...well, again, irresponsible is the nicest thing that comes to mind. And this in a leader. This is why leaders are held to a higher standard. Lots of people follow them because they are..well, leaders. I'm no Biblical scholar and I actually liked Bell before 'love wins', but after reading that I was like “this guy is not dealing with some hard Biblical passages and he's talking about an immensely important issue.” Anyways, after that book, Bell's theology became highly suspect. Sorry, I forgot that one wasn't about Bell...or was it??
- John Stott - Annihilationism – here is another one that would be a stretch to claim is heresy.
- Billy Graham – again, inclusivism is something that there is some gray area about – we have to ask questions which the Bible doesn't explicitly answer and there is necessarily mystery there... though my own opinion is that ole Billy succumbed to the Republican party pressure when he declared Mormons to be legit Christians...but that's another story...But Billy has led so many people to Christ, he might just get a ghetto pass...
Anyways, taken all in all, the worst of the bunch is the accusation of universalism, simply because the underlying message it is sending is “relax, all will be well” instead of “Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!”. Which one was Jesus message? Which one was Pauls? Which one is Bell's?
All of the other -isms up there (with the exception of universalism – which happens to be one of the 2 heresies that Bell has embraced) do not seem to me to be actual deal-breakers for the majority of Christians... and looking at the Bible, we can legitimately say “ok, so maybe there is a mystery here”.
With Universalism, if there is a case for it, Bell hasn't come close to making it. Which leads one to wonder why he wants to make that case? He must have some other motivation than Biblical Truth. I think the answer lies, as I've already stated, in looking at the our current culture and seeing how nicely universalism lines up with the ethos of this age...
The other heresy is of course Bell's somewhat recent embrace of same-sex marriage. Here he not only doesn't have any Biblical ground to stand on, its unclear whether he even thinks he NEEDS Biblical ground to stand on.
This is a more obvious departure from anything close to Orthodoxy – this is an overt embrace of Humanism at its worst.... if you want to see Bell faced with the hard questions on this subject you can find it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF9uo_P0nNI
In my opinion, they ask him very fair questions about his position and he does his best to squirm around answering them.
The worrying thing is that you have to assume the conclusion and then work the theology backwards from there...and even then, you have to do violence the text, the context, the whole Kaboodle to get to the conclusion that God is OK with homosexuality (or any sin for that matter).
Bell (and unfortunately not just him) try (usually successfully) to convince his disciples that God will go against his word out of His great love. That's like compounding heresy with blasphemy. Going against God's word BECAUSE of God's great love? How can God go against His word out of love? Would it be loving for God to go against his word? Give up some of His holiness to accommodate sinners?? Oh wait, He did do that, didn't he? He became sin and died on a cross.
So that we could REMAIN in our sin, right????????? Good lord, I wonder if the heresies ever actually change...
I couldn't say it better than John:
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be save through Him...and this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light.
But does that mean NOT taking someone to task for flagrantly teaching stuff contrary to Scripture? Considering their calls to holiness, what message do you think the apostles would have for Rob Bell who is teaching that homosexual marriage is not a sin?
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. “
Sorry if it sounds all legalistic and stuff, but God does take holiness seriously. And He apparently takes sin seriously. And it is in black and white for anyone to see that its obvious that in both the NT and the OT, God calls homosexuality a sin that will keep you out of His Kindgom. And here we have a leader, a teacher, contradicting what God so clearly says in His word. Its bad, man. THIS is straight up heresy. And its NOT loving NOT to say anything especially when so many people are eating this up.
And if that is NOT heresy (because I know many people embrace Bell's reasoning) then what CAN be called heresy?
I could go on. Suffice it to say, the Bell's of this world who are given the huge responsibility of sound Christian leadership and piss it away for public acceptance are leading lots of people to question some very basis Biblical stuff... reminds me of someone else in a garden a long time ago who asked the question “did God really say?”